Traditionally, it was thought that the English term Jubilee derives from the Hebrew term yobel (via Latin Jubilaeus), which in turn derives from yobhel, meaning ram; the Jubilee year was announced by a blast on a shofar, an instrument made from a ram's horn, during that year's Yom Kippur.
An alternative etymology notes that the Latin verb iūbilō, "shout for joy," predates the Vulgate, and proposes that instead the Latin jubilo (meaning shout), as well as Middle Irish ilach (victory cry), New English yowl, and Ancient Greek iuzo (shout), derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *yu- (shout for joy). In this case the Hebrew term for "jubilee" is a borrowing from neighboring Indo-European languages, rather than deriving from another Hebrew word.
- 1often capitalized : a year of emancipation and restoration provided by ancient Hebrew law to be kept every 50 years by the emancipation of Hebrew slaves, restoration of alienated lands to their former owners, and omission of all cultivation of the land
- 2a : a special anniversary; especially : a 50th anniversary
- b : a celebration of such an anniversary
- 3a : a period of time proclaimed by the Roman Catholic pope ordinarily every 25 years as a time of special solemnity
- b : a special plenary indulgence granted during a year of jubilee to Roman Catholics who perform certain specified works of repentance and piety
- 4a : jubilation
The Jubilee (Hebrew yovel יובל) year is the year at the end of seven cycles of shmita (Sabbatical years), and according to Biblical regulations had a special impact on the ownership and management of land in the Land of Israel; there is some debate whether it was the 49th year (the last year of seven sabbatical cycles, referred to as the Sabbath's Sabbath), or whether it was the following (50th) year.
"This fiftieth year is sacred—it is a time of freedom and of celebration when everyone will receive back their original property, and slaves will return home to their families. "—Leviticus 25:10
Jubilee deals largely with land, property, and property rights. As with most cultures, the property rights regarding land, slaves and indentured servants was less absolute than for other property rights such as for tools and personal artifacts.
The biblical rules concerning Sabbatical years (shmita) are still observed by many religious Jews in the State of Israel, but the regulations for the Jubilee year have not been observed for many centuries.